California College of the Arts
ADVANCED VISUAL STUDIES:
IDEOLOGIES OF VISUAL CULTURE
Fall, Semester, 2011
Prof. Matteo Bittanti
Meeting Place & Time:
San Francisco Campus, Main Building, Room W1
Thursdays 4:00 - 7:00 PM
Start Date: September 8 2011
End Date: December 15 2011
Office hours by appointment-only:
Please contact Matteo Bittanti via email at mbittanti at cca dot edu
Table of contents
1. Course Description
1.1 Course Format & Requirements
1.2 Learning Outcomes
2.1 Measurement of Student Performance
3. Required texts
3.1 Audiovisual Material
4. Class Discussion
5. Research Project, Mid-term and Final Presentation
5.1 Final Paper Proposal
5.2 Final Presentation
6 Classroom Conduct & Attendance Guidelines
6.1 Academic Honesty
8. Special Thanks
1. Course Description
Advanced Visual Studies explores the interaction between technology, culture, art, and politics that shaped the computer revolution in the United States, from the early 1960s till today. Specifically, we will examine the underlying ideologies that framed past and contemporary discourses around such topics as the "digital age", the relationship between human beings and machines, freedom and technology, bodies and minds, self-expression and corporate agendas. This class investigates the philosophical and political roots of technoculture, utopian and dystopian ideas about the future of mankind in the age of computational machines, and shifting notions of "being" and "doing". Our investigation will be framed by the narratives constructed by Richard Barbrook, Adam Curtis, and Fred Turner, whose perspectives will be reviewed and analyzed, compared and contrasted. Additionally, we will discuss ideas and works of scholars, writers, artists, and intellectuals - among others, Marshall McLuhan, Theodore Roszak, Stewart Brand, Jaron Lanier, and Kevin Kelly. The keywords of AVS 2011 include: information age, technological determinism, cybernetics, artificial intelligence, game theory, transhumanism, digital utopia, knowledge economy, "closed" vs. "open" vs. "network" models of society. Our goal is to answer such pressing questions as: Why have computer become such a powerful symbolic and material force in American culture? Does Silicon Valley have an ideology? If so, what are its core values, goals, and ideals? What are the relationships between information technology, culture, art, politics, and social models? Why did some ideas about technology become so prominent today, and not others? How does digital culture shape, define or even determine our sense of identity? And what do visual and popular culture (cinema, advertising, fashion, design) have to say about the ascent of the Information Age?
1.1 Course Format & Requirements
Classes will consist of lectures, screenings, in-class discussions, and student presentations. Our approach will be both historical and thematic. Students are required to read and critically discuss books, essays, articles and watch audiovisual material (films/documentaries/shorts). They are expected to come to class with several questions in mind for discussion. Readings, questions, extras will be posted on the password-protected class blog. Finally, students are required to write (and present to the class) a final paper of 15-20 pages and a 5-page mid-term proposal.
1.2 Learning Outcomes
In addition to the key goals described in section 1, AVS emphasizes the following learning outcomes:
- Methods of Critical Analysis: Students will learn to identify, actively engage with, and carry out exegeses of individual texts, both visual and textual. AVS invites the students to connect the dots between different, sometimes highly divergent interpretations of the same issues. Students will learn how to compare and contrast rhetorical strategies and framing techniques used by different authors to constructs a cohesive, cogent narrative.
- Written and Verbal Communication: Students will continue to hone their communication skills by presenting their ideas in different types of writing assignments and within class discussions and oral presentations.
- Visual Literacy: Students will learn how to recognize and decode different media aesthetics, conventions, and languages through an analysis of different kinds of visual artifacts (documentaries, commercials, instructional videos, billboards, films etc.).
- Interdisciplinarity: Students will understand various ways in which different media aesthetics intersect with other areas of social and cultural history.
- Professional development: students will present their ideas in a manner that meets professional standards in class discussions and through their written submissions.
Final grades will be determined as follows:
- Attendance, participation - both in class and online: 20%
- Midterm proposal: 25%
- Final presentation: 15%
- Final paper: 40%
One of the primary goals of this class is to help the students develop a critical eye. This class presents elements of both seminar and lecture courses. As such, students will be asked to provide input, during discussions and in-class critiques. Participation constitutes 20% of the final grade, so the more input on the student's part, the better.
2.1 Measurement of Student Performance
A 93-100 => Clearly stands out as excellent performance
B 83-86 => Grasps subject matter at a level considered to be good to very good
C 73-76 => Demonstrates a satisfactory comprehension of the subject matter
D 60-66 => Quality and quantity of work is below average, marginally acceptable
Failing 59- => Quality and quantity of work is below average and not acceptable
3. Required texts
We will read the following books in their entirety:
- Richard Barbrook, Imaginary Futures. From Thinking Machines to the Global Village, London: Pluto Press, 2007.
- Fred Turner, From Counterculture to Cyberculture. Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and Rise of Digital Utopianism, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.
- Andrew Utterson, From IBM to MGM. Cinema at the Dawn of the Digital Age, London: Palgrave, 2011. (introduction + three chapters).
- Franco Berardi Bifo, After the Future, Oakland, California: AK Press, 2011
- Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2011
- Sherry Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, New York: Basic Books, 2011
- Siva Vaidhyanathan, The Googlization of Everything And Why We Should Worry, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2011
- Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, New York: Penguin Press, 2011
- Evgeny Morozov, The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, New York: PublicAffairs, 2011
- Tim Wu, The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, New York: Knopf, 2011
Last but not least, A Writer’s Reference (6th Edition) by Diana Hacker will be our style guide. Additional and optional essays/papers/articles/videos will be provided by the instructor on a weekly basis, via the password-protected class blog. Please note that since the workload is considerable, it is strongly recommended to plan ahead.
3.1 Audiovisual Material
- Adam Curtis, All Watched by Machines of Love and Grace, UK, 2011.
- Adam Curtis, The Trap. What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom?, UK, 2007.
- Adam Curtis, Pandora's Box. A Fable from the Age of Science, UK, 1992.
- Association Films, Inc, To the Fair, US, 1965 (part of Rick Prelinger's Archives) [excerpts].
- Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, 1973 [excerpts].
- Lutz Dammbeck, The Net: The Unabomber, LSD and the Internet, 2006.
- Walter Lang, Desk Set, US, 1957.
- Jean-Luc Godard, Alphaville, FR, 1965.
- Stanley Kubrick, Dr. Strangelove, US, 1964 [excerpts].
- Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey, US, 1968.
- Charles & Ray Eames, "The Information Machine", 1958
- Charles & Ray Eames, "IBM at the Fair", "A Computer Glossary", US, 1964.
- Kevin McMahon, McLuhan's Wake, US, 2002 [excerpts].
- Michael Paxton, Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, US, 1998 [excerpts].
- Robert Barry Ptolemy, Transcendent Man, US, 2009.
- Ondi Timoner, We Live in Public, US, 2003.
4. Class Discussion
Every week, three key questions pertaining to the assigned reading and/or video(s) will be published on the class blog. Students will be expected to come to class with the reading/viewing done and be ready for discussion. Try to think of class meetings as a resource session in which you can get your questions answered and at the same time, learn what concerns are driving your colleagues. At some point in the course, students will be asked to lead and moderate the class conversation. To do it effectively, students will need to be able to summarize the key arguments of a specific reading and suggest how they connect to themes in our ongoing discussion. Students will also need to identify and propose key questions for subsequent discussion. Students can prepare a formal presentation or simply use their notes.
Weekly questions. A few examples:
- How was the iconography of the 1964 World Fair different from its 1939 predecessor?
- Why is the metaphor of feedback loop so important for the development of information technologies?
- How did the Cold War era influenced the development of information technologies as we know them today?
- What is the role and function of the artist according to Marshall McLuhan? What is the relationship between technology, art, and society, according to the Canadian scholar?
5. Research Project, Mid-term & Final Presentation
Over the course of the semester, students will complete a research paper of 15-20 pages, excluding bibliography and footnotes. The paper is designed to help you reflect, analyze, and discuss core themes and ideas encountered in AVS, practice dealing with primary and secondary materials, and develop a background in the area that will allow you to pursue more in-depth research projects in the future, e.g. a thesis or a dissertation. You may choose one of three models in crafting your project. All three require a mid-term proposal and all three require a detailed literature review. It is essential to discuss your ideas with the instructor before developing a full proposal. It is also a very good idea to look ahead in the syllabus and get started early.
Model 1: "Historical"
Select a group of people, texts or artifacts within the fifty year period that we covered in the course and analyze the roles played by information technologies in organizing their perceptions of self, community, and work. Based on your analysis, how should we understand the relationship of information technologies to processes of social, artistic, and cultural change? Which dominant ideas of technology emerged from the competing discourses? How do contemporary narratives of self, community, and work are influenced by these discourses?
Model 2: "Comparative"
Choose a single concept that recurs over the period we have covered (e.g. “transhumanism”, "utopia" or “efficiency”) and compare its deployment and evolution (or devolution). Based on your analysis, what accounts for the shifts in the meanings of this idea? What do these shifts tell about the relationship of information technologies to processes of social, artistic and cultural change? Moreover: You can also "go meta" and write a paper in which you compare and contrast the rhetorical strategies used by the different scholars/authors (e.g. Turner vs. Barbrook) and illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of their approaches.
Model 3: "And Now For Something Completely Unexpected..."
Students can suggest alternative approaches, but bear in mind that the final paper has to be critical, thesis-driven, and academic in nature. Those are the conditio sine qua non. For your mid-term proposal, submit a detailed written proposal explaining the project, how it relates to the course, and why it is preferable to the other two options. Be sure to add bibliographic sources NOT included in the course reader. You are expected to do investigative work, using the school library and other sources (e.g. online journals) to find useful material and make your case.
The final paper is worth 40% of your final grade. It is due the last day of class: December 15 2011 at 4 pm. The final paper must be submitted in two ways: 1) as a printed document - yes, on good old fashioned paper! - handed brevi manu to the instructor and as 2) an electronic file, sent to the instructor via email. Most formats are accepted (e.g. .DOC, .RTF) but not .PDF. Students can include up to six images in your final paper, but only if properly credited and used to make a point. The use of images for mere decorative purposes is highly discouraged. The paper will be evaluated on the basis of the students' ability to look critically and express her or his own ideas in the form of expository writing. The assessment guide will be available on the class' blog.
5.1 The Midterm Proposal: Due November 3 at 4 pm.
Students are required to write a 5-page proposal for the final research project. The proposal should include:
1. A title, subtitle, and description of your object of study, its significance, and the key issues or questions you want to address in your research. Do you have a novel approach or hypothesis? If so, describe it.
2. A concise, tightly-focused review of the scholarly literature on your topic. What are the most significant scholarly contributions in your area of investigation? Is there any important research on your topic carried out in contiguous fields? You must explain how your work will relate to the works you cite.
3. A brief discussion of research methods. What kind of research methods will you use to answer the questions you have posed or to test your hypothesis? Textual analysis? Archival research? Interviews? Why are those the best methods for this case? What will they allow you to discover? Do you need any special resources to complete your research? And are they available locally? Is your approach inspired by/comparable to Barbrook, Curtis or Turner's? Be bold, ambitious, and yet pragmatic.
4. A timetable. What are the key parts of your project (research, writing, etc.) and by when will you have them completed? What are the milestones?
The mid-term is worth 25% of your final grade. It is due on November 3 2011 at 4 pm. The mid-term must be submitted in two ways: 1) as a printed document handed brevi manu to the instructor and 2) as an electronic file, sent to the instructor via email. Most formats are accepted (e.g. .DOC, .RTF) but not .PDF. Please do not include any images.
5.1 Final Presentation
In addition to the final paper, students are required to give one oral presentation based on their research. Depending on the number of students enrolled, the duration of the presentation will range from 20 to 25 minutes and will take place on December 8th and December 15th 2011 (that means that you might have to give a presentation a week before the deadline for the final paper - be prepared). Students are strongly encouraged to make full use of audio-visual resources for their presentation (film clips, slide-show of still images, Powerpoint, Prezi, video etc.). Finally, all students are expected to skillfully critique their peers' presentations. The oral/visual presentation will be evaluated on the basis of the students' ability to look critically and express her or his own ideas in oral and visual form. The assessment guide will be available on the class' blog.
6. Classroom Conduct & Attendance Guidelines
1) Promptness is a basic requirement. Persistent lateness lowers your class participation grade considerably.
2) The use electronic devices - including smartphones - during class is not permitted. Note-taking on a laptop is not allowed. Please wait for the break to make phone calls or use the internet. Computers may only be used for in-class presentations.
3) Sleeping, chatting in the back of the room, reading external materials, working on external projects during the class session - any of these can result in immediate ejection from the class.
4) If more than one class is missed due to illness you must submit written verification from a physician and notify professor via e-mail or in writing immediately. Written medical documents must be submitted within two weeks of an absence. Any student with more than two unexcused absences during the semester will find that each additional absence, after the second, lowers his or her class participation grade by one full letter. In other words, the third unexcused absence would lower a B+ to a C+; the fourth would result in an F.
5) Students are not allowed to eat during class.
6) There are no make-up presentations or assignments.
7) Students who miss a class must collect the material discussed in class. In most cases, such material will be available on the class blog. At any rate, always make sure to contact me via email about the availability of such materials.
Thank you for your cooperation!
6.1 Academic Honesty
The reputation of a university and the value of its degrees rest upon the study and research carried on at that institution. The policy for maintaining academic honesty is:
A. Each student is responsible for performing academic tasks in such a way that honesty is not in question.
B. Unless an exception is specifically defined by an instructor, students are expected to maintain the following standards of integrity:
1. All tests, term papers, oral and written assignments are to be the work of the student presenting the material for course credit.
2. Any paraphrase, quotation, or summary (that is, any use of words, ideas, or findings of other persons, writers, or researchers) requires explicit citation of the source.
3. Deliberately supplying material to another student for purposes of plagiarism (to take and pass off as one's own ideas, writings, or work of another) is dishonest.
C. Each instructor is responsible for a learning environment supportive of academic honesty.
1. If a faculty member has reason to suspect academic dishonesty in or out of class, the faculty member should require additional and/or revised work that is unquestionably the work of the student.
2. A faculty member who has proof that academic honesty has been violated should take appropriate disciplinary action, which may include refusal of course credit.
3. A faculty member shall bring to the attention of the Vice President, Academic Affairs, all violations of academic honesty. The Vice President may place on probation, suspend, or expel any student who violates the policy on academic honesty.
[Please note that this schedule is tentative and subject to change]
WEEK 1: September 8, 2011
Introduction to the course: Ideologies of Digital Culture.
In class screening: Adam Curtis, All Watched by Machines of Loving Grace, BBC, UK, 2011, episode 1.
"Arthur C. Clarke on The Future", from Horizon, BBC, UK, 1964. [excerpt]
WEEK 2: September 15, 2011
Richard Barbrook, Imaginary Futures. From Thinking Machines to the Global Village, London: Pluto Press, 2007. Chapters 1-3 (pp. 1-42).
Richard Brautigan, "All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace", San Francisco: Communication Company, 1967.
In class screening: Adam Curtis, All Watched by Machines of Loving Grace, BBC, UK, 2011, episode 2.
In class screening: Charles & Ray Eames, "IBM at the Fair", "A Computer Glossary", US, 1964.
WEEK 3: September 22, 2011
Richard Barbrook, Imaginary Futures. From Thinking Machines to the Global Village, Pluto London: Pluto Press, 2007. Chapters 4-6 (pp. 43-78).
Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media. The Extensions of Man, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964. Excerpts. "Introduction to the First Edition", "Introduction to the Second Edition", "The Medium is The Message", "Media Hot and Cool", Reversal of the Overheated Medium", "The Gadget Lover: Narcissus as Narcosis" (Pp. 3-70) and "Automation: Living a Learning" (457-475)
Marshall McLuhan, The Playboy Interview, Playboy, March 1969. Pp. 26-27, 45, 55-56, 61, 63.
D. J. Stewart, "An essay on the Origins of cybernetics". Human Factors Research. 2000. . Web.
In class screening: Kevin McMahon, McLuhan's Wake, US, 2002 [excerpts].
WEEK 4: September 29, 2011
Richard Barbrook, Imaginary Futures. From Thinking Machines to the Global Village, London: Pluto Press, 2007. Chapters 7-9 (pp. 79-136).
Edwin Black, IBM and the Holocaust : The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation, New York: Three Rivers Press, 2010 [excerpts].
In class screening: Adam Curtis, All Watched by Machines of Loving Grace, BBC, UK, 2011, episode 3.
WEEK 5: October 6, 2011
Richard Barbrook, Imaginary Futures. From Thinking Machines to the Global Village, London: Pluto Press, 2007. Chapters 10-11 (pp. 137-184).
Katie Hafner, Matthew Lyon, Where Wizards Stay Up Late. The Origins of the Internet, Simon & Schuster, 1996. Chapters 1-3 (pp. 09-102).
In class screening: Adam Curtis, Pandora's Box, BBC, UK, 1992, "The Engineers Plot, "To The Brink of Eternity".
WEEK 6: October 13, 2011
Richard Barbrook, Imaginary Futures. From Thinking Machines to the Global Village, Pluto Press, 2007. Chapters 12-13 (pp. 185-220).
Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, 1967 [excerpts].
In-class viewing: Adam Curtis, The Trap, BBC, UK, 2007, "F**k You Buddy".
Home-Viewing: Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, 1973, France.
WEEK 7: October 20, 2011
Richard Barbrook, Imaginary Futures. From Thinking Machines to the Global Village, London: Pluto Press, 2007. Chapters 14-15 (221-290).
In class screening: Adam Curtis, The Trap, BBC, UK, 2007, "The Lonely Robot".
WEEK 8: October 27, 2011
Fred Turner, From Counterculture to Cyberculture. Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and Rise of Digital Utopianism, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. Chapter 1 (11-40).
Theodore Roszak, The Making of a Counter Culture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society and Its Youthful Opposition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969/1995. Chapter 1 (11-40).
In class screening: Lutz Dammbeck, The Net: The Unabomber, LSD and the Internet, 2006 part 1.
WEEK 9: November 3, 2011
Fred Turner, From Counterculture to Cyberculture. Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and Rise of Digital Utopianism, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. Chapter 2 (41-68).
Andrew Utterson, From IBM to MGM. Cinema at the Dawn of the Digital Age, London: Palgrave, 2011. Introduction. (pp. 1-15).
In-class viewing: Lutz Dammbeck, The Net: The Unabomber, LSD and the Internet, 2006 part 2.
=> Midterm proposal due at 4 PM.
WEEK 10: November 10, 2011
Fred Turner, From Counterculture to Cyberculture. Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and Rise of Digital Utopianism, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. Chapter 3 (69-103).
Andrew Utterson, From IBM to MGM. Cinema at the Dawn of the Digital Age, London: Palgrave, 2011. Chapter 1 "Computer in the Workplace". (pp 16-32).
Home Viewing: Walter Lang, Desk Set, US, 1957.
In-class viewing: Lutz Dammbeck, The Net: The Unabomber, LSD and the Internet, 2006 part 3.
WEEK 11: November 17, 2011
Fred Turner, From Counterculture to Cyberculture. Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and Rise of Digital Utopianism, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. Chapter 4-5 (104-174)
Andrew Utterson, From IBM to MGM. Cinema at the Dawn of the Digital Age, London: Palgrave, 2011. Chapter 3 "Tarzan vs. IBM". (pp 55-72).
Home Viewing: Jean-Luc Godard, Alphaville, FR, 1965.
In-class viewing: "Homo Internectus", part of The Virtual Revolution series, BBC2, 2010
WEEK 12: November 24, 2011
No class: Thanksgiving Day
WEEK 13: December 1, 2011
Fred Turner, From Counterculture to Cyberculture. Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and Rise of Digital Utopianism, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. Chapters 6-8 (175-236).
Andrew Utterson, From IBM to MGM. Cinema at the Dawn of the Digital Age, London: Palgrave, 2011. Chapter 5 "Artificial Intelligence in 2001: A Space Odyssey". (pp 92-113).
Home Viewing: Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey, US, 1968.
In class screening: Stanley Kubrick, Dr. Strangelove, US, 1965 [excerpts].
WEEK 14: December 8, 2011
Fred Turner, From Counterculture to Cyberculture. Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and Rise of Digital Utopianism, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. Chapters 9 (236-262).
Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron, "The Californian ideology", August 1995.
Louis Rossetto's reply to Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron's "The Californian Ideology", August 1995.
In class screening: Robert Barry Ptolemy, Transcendent Man, US, 2009. (excerpts)
Ondi Timoner, We Live in Public, US, 2009 (excerpts)
Final presentations 1 of 2: 4 presenters
WEEK 15: December 15, 2011
Final presentations 2 of 2:
=> Final Research paper due at 4 pm.
Please note that the schedule is subject to change
8. Special Thanks
Fred Turner, Jeffrey Schnapp, and Henry Lowood.